Princess of Amathar – Chapter 9 Excerpt

I swam back outside and reported the mystery to Malagor. He did not seem pleased. We left the meat cooking, and wrapped up a burning ember, some kindling and a couple of large sticks in a piece of fur, and swam back into the hidden room. Once inside, we climbed out of the water and onto the dry ground. The room was lit only by a dim glow from the watery passage. Malagor and I used the ember and kindling to start a small fire in the hidden chamber. I had my doubts about doing so, since there was a limited amount of oxygen in the room, and I had no great desire to die of asphyxiation. However once we had the little fire burning, we noticed a small flicker of flame leaping in the direction of the wall. From there it was only a small step to the realization that there was a secret door right by where we had chosen to build the fire. Even with this knowledge at our command, it took some time for us to figure out how to open the portal. In the end, Malagor and I had to press on the wall in two different places to force a perfectly disguised panel to slide back, revealing a darkened passage. I wondered that Norar Remontar had been able to do it by himself.

Malagor and I each took a burning stick from the fire, and entered the secret passage. It bears mentioning that you can’t make a really effective torch with nothing but a stick. Having watched several hundred adventure movies in my formative years, I have seen many matinee heroes create torches with nothing but a flaming stick. In reality, it just doesn’t work. One needs some oily rags or something. The two burning sticks that my friend and I carried offered little more light than one might expect from a small candle, and after what must have been only several minutes, mine went out completely. Malagor was able to nurse his flaming stick in a way that it stayed alive at least enough for us to see the ground where we were walking.

The passage in which we found ourselves was a rough-cut cave-like hallway that could have been natural except for the relatively smooth and level floor. It took us straight back into the mountain. Our footsteps made loud clomping sounds that echoed all out of proportion to the way we were carefully treading. After we had gone several hundred feet, we noticed that the walls, ceiling, and floor became more and more smooth and uniform. After another four or five hundred feet, we stopped to examine the walls again, which by this point had become completely smooth, with nice square corners at the point where they met the floor or the ceiling. At that very moment Malagor’s fire went out too.

“What do we do now?” he asked.

“Let’s just wait a moment and see if our eyes adjust to the darkness,” I replied.

I said this just to have something to say, because as anyone who has ever done any cave exploring can tell you, your eyes do not adjust to complete darkness. The complete absence of light precludes any vision whatsoever. Nevertheless, when we had waited for a little while, Malagor and I were both able to discern the shape of the passage ahead. There was a faint and indistinct light coming from far away down the corridor. We continued on our way.

As the two of us walked along, Malagor had tended to follow the left side of the corridor and I the right. It wasn’t long before we realized that we had moved farther and farther apart, and that the hallway was gradually widening. About the same time that we made this discovery, the surface of the wall changed abruptly from the smooth stone we had grown used to, to a bumpy soft material. It must have had a great acoustical quality, for I could no longer hear our footsteps. I was just thinking that the hallway had widened from its original five feet or so to well over twenty, when the hallway ended by opening into a huge room.

The size of this room was impossible to measure from our present vantage point. It seemed to be endless in any direction, and we could not judge the height of the ceiling either. I was standing there thinking about what to do next, when Malagor tugged at my sleeve. I asked him what the matter was, and in answer, he grabbed my head with his hands and turned it to my right. In the distance I could see a light. It was like a swinging lantern in the distance that blinked on and off occasional.

“I have an idea what that is,” I said. “Let’s go.”

Princess of Amathar – Chapter 8 Excerpt

I felt a crushing, squishing sound, as the life and the insides were crushed out of the giant spider upon which I had landed. Jumping to my feet, I found the hulking arachnid looking much like a very small one looks, after it has been stepped upon. The many other spider beings of the compound stood completely still for what must have been several minutes, enough time for Norar Remontar and Malagor to clamber down from the web. They were standing by my side, as was our liberator Vvvv, when the Pell began once again to move. They did not move toward us, or attempt to attack, but instead simply spun around in a bizarre dance as if they had lost their minds. Vvvv seemed immune to this behavior.

“Now would be a great time to leave,” I said.

“We have fulfilled only half of our commitment,” said Norar Remontar, and drawing his sword, leapt toward the Pell whom I had earlier enjoyed spitting upon. As he raised his sword above his head, it began to provide a lovely pale illumination, and as he sliced through the body of the monster, the body hairs and flesh sizzled as if the weapon had been a hot brand. The Amatharian moved quickly away from the arachnids and began a trot toward the forest. Malagor and I followed.

“It’s all yours, Vvvv!” I called out, stopping to look back from the forest edge.

The Pell who had freed us positioned himself upon a large rock and began speaking to his fellows in the whistling language of their kind. Presumably he was presenting his credentials to be leader, or urging them to some sort of action. The other spiders listened for a moment, then with a swift and determined viciousness, set upon him with their stingers and their fangs. In scant seconds, the hapless Vvvv had been torn to pieces. Then the entire horde turned toward me.

I quickly took off after my companions who were several hundred feet ahead of me by that point.   It didn’t take me long, with my gravity enhanced muscles, to catch up with them. I quickly relayed the events going on behind us, and we all redoubled our efforts to get away from the area. I of course, had no trouble in trotting along at quite a good pace, and Norar Remontar seemed to be quite the long-distance runner, but my friend Malagor, though he was quite capable of attaining great speed for short distances, was clearly not built for the long haul. We were forced to stop every so often so that he could rest. As soon as we perceived our pursuers approaching, we would be off.

“Perhaps we should simply stop and fight,” suggested Norar Remontar, as we trotted along. “We are not asleep this time, and I feel quite certain that we could sell our lives dearly.”

“I am not quite sure that I am ready to sell mine at all,” I replied.

Just then however, the forest abruptly ended at the base of a tremendously high mountain. It was as if the ground had simply turned perpendicular to itself. There was no way to continue forward, so we cut to the left, and began to trace our way along the edifice. We jogged along at a renewed pace, but soon discovered that our detour had allowed our pursuers to reach us. Just to our left, several dozen of the Pell rushed out of the forest and toward us.

Norar Remontar and I drew our swords, Malagor pulled out his knife, and the three of us turned to face our foes. I could see from the corner of my right eye, the Amatharian’s sword begin to glow with its unearthly light. Foremost in my mind however, was the spider that was directly in front of me, and the two others who were attempting to sneak around to my left.

Rather than wait to be completely encircled, I made the first move. Jumping up and to the side, I dropped down sword point first on one of the two Pell to the side of me. I quickly rolled over the top of the creature’s body pulling the sword blade free as I did, and using the body as a shield from the other two who lunged forward. I swung the sword in a great arc and actually sliced through the bodies of both attackers. My appreciation of myself was short-lived however, for at that moment, I felt thick silky strands being sprayed upon me from behind.

I am sure that most can understand my feelings when I say that having once been encased in the cocoon of a giant spider-creature, I had lost any desire to be so encased again. I jumped straight up into the air, my intention being to land behind the attacker who was at the moment behind me. The silk threads now attached to my back made this impossible. Instead I flipped over backwards and landed on the back of the spider. He was a large one. I drove my sword down into its body so hard that it stuck into the ground beneath him.

Princess of Amathar – Chapter 7 Excerpt

I couldn’t believe it. It was one of the spiders that had spoken—a particularly large, ugly, and bloated individual.

“Soon I will bite you on your neck, and suck the delicious juices from your body.”

“I hope you get indigestion,” I replied.

“I won’t. I have eaten many Amatharians. You are delicious. Of course that furry one is not fit to eat.” The disgusting thing pointed one of its front legs at Malagor. “We will lay our eggs upon it.”

“You have killed us,” Norar Remontar repeated.

“I suppose I’ve disgraced myself by my negligence.”

“No. It was merely an unfortunate mistake.”

“I don’t have to kill myself to atone for it?”

“My people do not believe in suicide. If an Amatharian must make reparation for a wrong, he does it by doing service for the one he has injured. Besides, I do not think that you will have the opportunity to kill yourself.”

The large ugly spider creature spoke again.

“You must remain alive. You must be alive when I suck your insides out.”

Now it is not so much that I mind someone, or in this case I guess it was something, talking about sucking my insides out, but I had the impression that this thing was baiting me and trying to scare me. I was determined to put a brave face on the situation, if only to give Norar Remontar a good impression of me. So I spat right in the spider’s face, or what I took to be its face. It screamed out in a high-pitched whine that made my spine tingle, and actually made Malagor yelp out in pain. The spider jumped and danced around in a circle, whether in pain or in ecstasy I couldn’t say, but after that it seemed to keep farther away from my face for which I was grateful. If you would like to get a real idea of my predicament, simply go out to the back yard and move some wood or a flowerpot until you find a large plump Black Widow spider. Put the spider in a jar, and look at it through a magnifying glass. Now imagine that face right up next to yours talking to you, and you will see almost exactly what I saw there in the forests of Ecos, for the Pell, as the Amatharians call these creatures, resemble nothing so much as a fifty pound Black Widow, without the red hour glass marking.

For the first time since being trussed up, I looked around to take a real stock of our enemies. There were about twenty of the disgusting creatures around, and they all looked about the same, with slight variations of size. Then without so much as another word or shrill squeal, the spiders started off through the forest. Four spiders grabbed my cocoon in their vertical mouths and began to drag me across the forest floor. Malagor and Norar Remontar were subjects of similar treatment. It was neither a comfortable nor a dignified way to travel. We were dragged about a mile into a very dark and silent portion of the forest.

The Pell had taken us to their home. This settlement, if one can so dignify the place with that name, was nothing more than an immense spider web covering several hundred square yards, and rising high into the upper branches of a number of trees. We were taken to the center of the spider web, then long strands of silk were tied to our feet, and we were hauled up to hang upside down some thirty feet above the ground. I then noticed that the Pell numbered in the hundreds, ranging in size from about as big as a tarantula, to one individual, possibly the village elder, which was about the size of a large pony. All of these beasts climbed around the webbing, but their main residence seemed to be a large hole in the ground below us, and a little to my left.

I have always hated spiders, and the experience of hanging by my ankles in a giant web, and being examined by arachnids close to my own size did nothing to strengthen my opinion of them. I tried to think of some way to free my hands, but they were wrapped tightly at my sides. I couldn’t imagine things getting any worse than they were at that moment, but they really always can. Just then it started to rain.

I like rain. I suppose that it is because I grew up in the southwestern United States, where rainfall is relatively rare. However rain, when in conjunction with gravity, has an unfortunate effect upon an individual who is hanging upside down. It runs up his nose.

“You have killed me,” said Malagor, and he stretched out his head and began a long, low howl.

Princess of Amathar – Chapter 6 Excerpt

Norar Remontar, Malagor, and I made our way across the vast interior surface of the planet Ecos. We had been walking for quite a long time. I cannot stress enough, the meaninglessness of time when one does not have the convenience of a day and night cycle with which to gauge it. Norar Remontar had occasion to discuss the concept of time at great length with me. Realizing that the Amatharian was from a highly technological society, I asked him if his people carried timepieces. I could see no watch carried openly upon his person. He didn’t seem to know what a clock was and I of course tried to explain.

“Yes, we have a device which we use in Amathar to note the time, but we do not measure it,” he replied. “I find this idea of yours that time is a constant that can be accurately and evenly measured to be most improbable. My people are taught that time varies. As I talk with you, time moves quickly, and when I, at the end of our conversation, look back, I will see that we have traveled a great distance. When I am not talking to you, but am instead quietly thinking of home, time moves very slowly indeed, and when I look back after what seems to be an eternity, I find that I have not traveled that far at all.”

I thought a great deal about Norar Remontar’s statement, and I decided that in a world of eternal noon, it seemed to make perfect sense. There was certainly nothing that I could think of to discredit the idea.

Time was of course not the only thing that we spoke of on that trek. So long was the journey in fact, that even if we had spoken but a small fraction of the time, our conversations could fill several volumes. Norar Remontar took great pride and delight in telling me all about the people and the culture of Amathar. Here is a brief synopsis of that history as he first recounted it to me.

“Long, long ago, my ancestors were savages. They lived in small tribal kingdoms, and they warred against themselves, as well as with other nearby races. The people knew nothing of technology, nothing of art, and most importantly, they knew nothing of honor.

“Into the land, came the man known as Amath. He was not one of the people. He was from a place far away. I don’t know where. He united the people of the tribal kingdoms against their common enemies, yet he taught them to recognize their friends as well. He found the Garden of Souls and he organized the City of Amathar around it. He taught the people art, literature, love, and honor. He was the first leader of Amathar, and so the city is named for him. He chose the best of the warriors to be his successors, for he had no offspring of his own, and he founded the Holy Order to guard against the evils in the hearts of men.

“All of this was long ago. Amath has been gone two or three hundred generations, but all that we Amatharians are, all that we hold as truths, are due to his teaching and his guidance. Each of us carries his tome of teachings.”

The knight produced a small book from an unseen pocket, and handed it to me. It was bound like an ordinary book one would find on earth, but the pages were some type of plastic. The characters on the page were tiny little animals and other recognizable shapes— the sun, a tree, a human hand. I handed Norar Remontar back his book and determined that some day I would learn to read the strange writing, and find out just what the teachings of Amath were.

Many times on our journey I pressed the knight to tell me about his city. On these occasions he would simply smile, and say that I would have to see it for myself. Of course my personal interests were constantly being drawn to the subject of his sister. I didn’t want to arouse Norar Remontar’s ire by accidentally disgracing her somehow, and truth be told, I was somewhat embarrassed by my single-minded desire to see this woman again. Of course being no fool, he saw through my efforts to artificially generalize the subject, but played along with me anyway. It seemed that in Amatharian society, both the men and the women were able to become knights and pursue careers in any field. The culture was a matrilineal one. The Amatharians passed on their family name from mother to daughter, but even more important than the family name, were the family crests, and these were passed from elder family members, to those children, grandchildren, and even nephews and nieces, who managed to achieve knighthood. Norar Remontar and a cousin had received their crests from an uncle who was a war hero. His sister inherited her crest from her grandfather.

Princess of Amathar – Chapter 5 Excerpt

Slowly the victorious warrior scanned the battlefield around him, and as he did so, his eyes alighted upon Malagor and myself. He started slowly toward us. I did nothing but stand and stare at the alien knight. He moved slowly at first, but as he got nearer, he seemed more and more menacing, and when he was only several yards away, he began to raise his wondrous sword.

“Stop!” called Malagor, backing up his command by brandishing his light rifle. The blue-skinned man stopped and stared at us and particularly at me for a moment.

“You carry a dead sword,” he said to me.

“I carry this sword that I found. It is not as marvelous as your own….”

“Just where did you find this sword?”

“It was in a cave, along with these light rifles,” I replied.

“You took these weapons from the dead!”

“There was no body,” I said, “only the weapons and some food items.”

“You lie!” He took another step forward.

“He tells the truth,” said Malagor. “Do not take another step, or I shall have to kill you.”

The Amatharian looked carefully at my friend as if for the first time. “You are a Malagor?”


“My clan, long ago, dealt with the Malagor. They were a people of honor.”

Malagor nodded his head slightly in acknowledgment of the compliment, but didn’t lower his weapon.

“You affirm that this pale one did not desecrate the bodies of my people?”

“I swear it.”

The Amatharian looked back at me, the fury of battle now fading from his eyes. He straightened his back, and then carefully sheathed his sword, which now appeared to be nothing more than a metal blade of the non-glowing variety. This fellow was a magnificent specimen. He was almost a head taller than I, at least six foot seven. He was muscular and handsome, and wore the typical Amatharian fighting clothing, the black body suit and white tabard. His own tabard was surrounded by gold braid and bore his insignia, a flaming sun with outstretched wings.

“May I see your weapon?” he asked.

I handed him the sword, hilt first. He carefully examined the blade and its edge. Then with something akin to reverence, he carefully removed the jeweled hilt and opened a here-to-fore hidden compartment in the base. He sighed. Then he carefully replaced the hilt, and handed the weapon back to me.

“I offer you my apology,” he said. “A sword this fine was designed for a remiant, and yet this sword has never lived.”

“I accept your apology,” I replied.

I could feel Malagor breathe a sigh of relief. It was obvious that he didn’t want to have to kill a brave man, especially over a misunderstanding. I certainly didn’t want to force him to. The knight bowed his head.

“I am Homianne Kurar Ka Remiant Norar Remontar of the Sun Clan,” he said. I later learned that he had given me his name as Norar Remontar, his rank as Remiant or knight, and his social status or nobility as Homianne Kurar Ka, which literally means child of the overlord, and implies that one is a prince or princess. In Amatharian society the head of each clan is called Kurar Ka or Overlord and his direct heirs are his Homianne. Just below them in rank are the Kurar or lords, and below them the Kur or lesser nobles.

Malagor replied with his own name, which as I have previously explained, defies all attempts at transcription. It is a kind of a growl and a cough and he seemed to throw in something else, perhaps a title, though I didn’t press as to what it might have been. I must confess that at that moment I felt somewhat inadequate in the name department, as I had neither a particularly long or eloquent name nor an impressive title.

“Alexander Ashton” I said.

The Zoasian ship was no longer even a dot in the sky. Malagor invited Norar Remontar to our camp to rest and recover, but he demurred saying that his first duty was to his fallen comrades. I didn’t see what he could possibly do for them, as it was only too obvious that he was the only survivor, the Zoasians were quite thorough in their murderous methods, shooting even those enemies that were already down, and it would have been insane for an individual to contemplate burying all of the dead soldiers. The Amatharian explained to me that he was required by custom, to pay his respects to the dead and that he had an additional obligation to confirm the status of those members of his own family among the warriors. It seems that the military units as well as commercial concerns were organized around the concept of the family clan.

* * * * * * * * * *

If you would like to read one of my books, now is the time. Smashwords is having their summer reading sale. You can get ebooks in any format— Kindle, nook, Kobo, iBooks, etc. The sale ends July 31st.

The following books by me are on sale for FREE:

Astrid Maxxim and her Amazing Hoverbike (Astrid Maxxim Book 1)
The Voyage of the Minotaur (Senta and the Steel Dragon Book 1)
Princess of Amathar

Use coupon code SW100 at checkout.

The other books in the Senta and the Steel Dragon series are 50% off:
The Dark and Forbidding Land
The Drache Girl
The Young Sorceress
The Two Dragons
The Sorceress and her Lovers
The Price of Magic
A Plague of Wizards

Blood Trade (Vampire Novel)

Use coupon code SW50 at checkout.

In addition, Smashwords has literally thousands of ebooks by other authors on sale this month. Hundreds and hundreds for free. Time to fill up your ebook reader with a library. Visit

Princess of Amathar – Chapter 4 Excerpt

Malagor and I crouched in the high grass watching the mile long Zoasian battleship hum along in the sky. The great dreadnought cruised to a point about four miles away from us, and came slowly to a halt. I asked my friend if the Zoasians might have spotted us, as there seemed to be no other reason for the ship to have stopped, but he did not seem to think it likely. I asked him if the ship was equipped with radar or sonar, but he had no knowledge of those devices. I tried to explain them to him, but since I am neither a scientist nor engineer, I didn’t do a very good job. Malagor seemed to get the gist of it, though he said that such technology was unknown in Ecos, or at least the part of it known to him. He assured me that the only detection apparatus aboard the great vessel were powerful telescopes manned by Zoasian observers.

We continued to watch the ship from our location for a very long time. It might have been an hour, or it might have been a week— there was just no way for me to judge. As we waited, I strained my eyes to make out every detail possible on the fantastic vessel. The weapons were massive and futuristic in design, though possessing none of the simple beauty of the light rifles we carried. There were numerous structures and housings along the top and sides of the ship, but it was impossible to determine what the purpose of any individual compartment might be. In the foreword of the vessel was what I assumed to be an airstrip, lined with bizarre looking aircraft. This was somewhat of an assumption on my part, since they did not look at all like earthly planes, but I was later to be proven to be correct. I could see tiny figures moving around on deck but the distance was too great for me to make out what they were like.

I was drawn away from my careful observation when Malagor tapped me on the shoulder. He directed my attention by pointing off into the distance. At first I could see nothing except the green band where the Ecosian landscape reached up to become the Ecosian sky. After a moment though, I saw a dot in the distance, which steadily grew in size. It didn’t take long for me to determine what the object was. It was a ship similar in size and method of locomotion to the great Zoasian battleship, and it was zooming toward the black ship at over one hundred miles per hour. Of course the eternal sun of Ecos makes the measure of miles per hour almost meaningless in terms of long distances covered, but it seems the best way for me to describe the velocities involved.

I glanced at the first ship and saw that it was turning its weaponry toward the interloper. The airstrip on the upper deck began spitting aircraft into the sky. It turned slowly like some great black beast crouching for a spring. It presented all its teeth to the enemy.

The second ship was close enough to observe clearly now. It was roughly the same shape as the Zoasian vessel, and seemed to have a similar array of armament. Instead of being the hollow black of the battleship though, it was painted navy blue with bright silver trim and highlights. From all over the craft were hung colorful banners and bright waving flags. Along the bow was a great golden insignia— two crossed swords above a flaming sun. This ship too began disgorging squadrons of aircraft.

“Amatharians,” said Malagor. “The banners on the ship are the colors of her knights. The insignia means that there is someone important on board.”

“Why would they fly into battle if they were carrying someone important?” I asked.

“If an Amatharian sees a Zoasian, he will attack. If a Zoasian sees an Amatharian, he will attack. These two things are as sure as the sun in the sky.”

The two ships began to fire their weaponry almost simultaneously, as the squadrons of fighter aircraft began to engage in a huge and deadly dogfight. The Zoasian armament consisted of a broad range of weapon types, from missiles to powerful cannon to a particularly ugly black ray. The Amatharian weaponry appeared to be all of one type, based on the same principles as the light rifles, with their churning bubbling liquid sunlight, although the shipboard guns fired light streams anywhere from one inch to one foot in diameter.

The battle went on and on. It seemed incredible that ships of even that size could withstand the punishment that those two did. Each took hit after hit from the enemy ship and its aircraft. Fighters were shot out of the sky right and left, and they dropped to the ground bursting into fireballs. Several of them crashed into the enemy ship, or into their own. Explosions rocked the battle cruisers, and we could see tiny figures on the deck fighting fires and in many cases, losing those fights. After a while it seemed that most of the fighters were gone, victims of the ongoing conflict, but the two great dreadnoughts refused to give up. They kept pouring volley after volley into each other. As they did so, the battle began to slowly drift our way.

“I think that we had better find another vantage point.” I said, as I started to gather our things together.

“Wait, look,” said Malagor, pointing at the conflict.

* * * * * * * * *

If you would like to read one of my books, now is the time. Smashwords is having their summer reading sale. You can get ebooks in any format— Kindle, nook, Kobo, iBooks, etc. The sale ends July 31st.

The following books by me are on sale for FREE:

Astrid Maxxim and her Amazing Hoverbike (Astrid Maxxim Book 1)
The Voyage of the Minotaur (Senta and the Steel Dragon Book 1)
Princess of Amathar

Use coupon code SW100 at checkout.

The other books in the Senta and the Steel Dragon series are 50% off:
The Dark and Forbidding Land
The Drache Girl
The Young Sorceress
The Two Dragons
The Sorceress and her Lovers
The Price of Magic
A Plague of Wizards

Blood Trade (Vampire Novel)

Use coupon code SW50 at checkout.

In addition, Smashwords has literally thousands of ebooks by other authors on sale this month. Hundreds and hundreds for free. Time to fill up your ebook reader with a library. Visit

Princess of Amathar – Updated and Revised

A newly updated and revised edition of Princess of Amathar is now available.  If you already own this as an ebook, you should be able to download the latest version for free.  If you don’t, you can get it now for just $2.99 wherever fine ebooks are sold.

Mysteriously transported to the artificial hollow world of Ecos, Earth man Alexander Ashton finds himself in the middle of a millennium-long war between the reptilian Zoasians and the humanoid Amatharians. Adopted by the Amatharians, Ashton must conform to a society based on honor and altruism, ruled by Knights whose power comes from the curious energy forms known as “souls” which inhabit their supernaturally powerful swords, and rife with its own peculiarities and prejudices. When the Princess of Amathar, whom Ashton has longed for since first seeing her, is captured by the Zoasians, he must cross an alien world, battle monstrous creatures, and face unknown dangers to save her. Princess of Amathar is a sword-swinging novel of high adventure in the tradition of Edgar Rice Burroughs. It is the story a strange world filled with alien races, aerial battleships, swords and energy weapons, amazing adventures and horrible dangers, and the man who must face them all for the love of a woman he has never met.

Princess of Amathar – Chapter 2 Excerpt

After getting a good long sleep, Malagor and I began to pack our meager belongings for an extended journey.  Our belongings truly were meager.  My dog-like friend had only a few furs and some weapons and tools to his name, and I had almost nothing to mine.  I was interested to observe Malagor’s weapons.  With the exception of his knife, which was obviously well manufactured, they all seemed to be hand-made, and consisted of a spear, a bow, and a quiver of arrows.  As soon as we had grouped the possessions into two bundles, we each took one and started on our way.  There seemed to be no north, south, east, or west in Ecos, so we went in the direction that Malagor said he had previously been traveling.  After we had walked across the plain quite a long way, I looked back at the cabin.  It was inching its way up toward the sky.  It seemed a lonely place now.  As we got farther and farther away, it would move up the endless horizon, though of course it would disappear from view before it got very high.  I wondered though if, when we reached wherever it was we were going, it would be looking down at us from some point high up in the heavens.

While we walked along, I asked Malagor many questions about the world of Ecos, the fauna and flora, and the intelligent inhabitants.

“How big is Ecos?”  I asked. I had thought that had Ecos been just a hollow planet, I would have been able to see far more of the horizon as it stretched up into the sky and that much more clearly than I could.  It seemed to me that it was far larger.

“Two hundred twenty-six thousand hokents,” he replied.

This of course, led to my lesson in the measurement of distances in Ecos, which was common to the Malagor and the Amatharians, and a few other intelligent races. The kentan was the basic unit of measurement and had apparently been derived from the size of an insect lair, as strange as this may have seemed at the time.  Then again, I recalled that honey bees made cells in their hive that were completely uniform in size, no matter where you happened to find the hive, or what the bees were using as a source of pollen.  I marveled that the kentan had come from a zoological observation such as this.  As nearly as I could calculate, the kentan was about five and one-quarter inches.  A kentar was ten kentans, or about fifty-two and a half inches.  A kent was ten kentars, one hundred kentans, or about forty-three feet nine inches.  A kentad was one hundred kents, or some eight tenths of a mile.  And a hokent was one thousand kentads, one hundred thousand kents, or eight hundred twenty-eight miles.

So, when Malagor said that Ecos was two hundred twenty-six thousand hokents in diameter, he was telling me that it was about one hundred eighty-seven million miles in diameter.  With a little mental calculation on my part, I realized that with a sun just under one million miles in diameter, this would put the surface of Ecos about ninety-three million miles from the surface of the sun— about the same distance that Earth is from the surface of its sun.  If my calculations held correct, Ecos would have a surface area of over three billion planet Earths.  It was quite an astounding concept.

For a while I thought about the fact that the great plain we walked across, might well be larger than the surface area of my home planet, and yet be only a tiny fraction of Ecos.  But after a while these types of musings can only give one a headache, so I turned my head to other thoughts.  Looking around across the plain, I observed a marvelous collection of plains animals. I could identify the ecological niches of most of the beasts, by observing their similarities to Earth animals, and yet some of these denizens of the great prairie were completely unearthly. There was a herd of beautiful antelope-like creatures, with long spiral horns and stripes across their backs and six legs.  There were beautiful flying things that looked like butterflies two yards wide. Whether they were birds or insects or something entirely different than either, I could not say.  There was a large caterpillar creature thirty feet long, with a huge maw in front, that ate everything it came across, plant or animal, and there was a beast that preyed upon it that stood twenty feet tall and looked like a cross between an ostrich and a praying mantis.  Some of these animals we hunted for food, some of them we gave a wide berth, and some of them we stopped and stared at in amazement, because not even Malagor had seen the likes of them.

We walked, and we hunted as we walked, and at last I was sure we must have been traveling for a week.  It is very eerie to do anything for a long period of time, and then to look up and see the sun in the exact position that it was in when you started whatever it was that you were doing.  That’s how it was for me.  At last however, Malagor decided it was time to stop and sleep, so we cleared the grass from an area and made a fire.  Malagor and I then took turns watching for beasts and sleeping.  We each slept once, ate, then slept again, and then we started on our way once more.  We followed this procedure many, many times over.  We continued to hunt for food animals along our way, and at every small stream, we stopped to fill our water skins.  I must confess that I never did know how long a journey our trip was, but it seems to me that it must have been close to a year.  At one time I asked my friend how long he though that we had been walking.  His only reply was, “What does it matter.”

At long last we reached the edge of the great plain.  Before us stood a line of small hills that looked to be easily passable.  On the lower slope of the hills grew many small bushes, profusely covered with tiny blue berries.  Malagor picked one, smelled it, tasted it, and pronounced it good.

“We will stay a while here,” he announced.  “Berries do not grow enough places to warrant passing them by.”

I examined the bushes closest to us.

“Some of these berries are new growth, and some of them are rotting on the plant,” I said.  “How long will the season last?”

“I do not know season,” he said.  “What is season?”

Princess of Amathar – Chapter 1 Excerpt

I don’t expect you to believe this story, but it is the truth.  My name is Alexander Ashton.  I was born in the heart of the American west.  I have often been known to say that I was born either a hundred years too late, or perhaps a hundred years too early.  It always seemed to me that I had the misfortune to live in the single most unexciting period of time the panorama of history had to offer.  I don’t say that I longed to be transported to another time or to another world, for never in my wildest dreams did I believe this to be possible.  I was destined to be surprised.

I was born in a small city.  I played as a child in a park that was once a dusty street where outlaws of the old west fought famous gunfights.  When I was seven, my parents were killed in a motor vehicle accident.  I really remember little of them.  I was put in a state-run children’s home where I lived until I was eighteen, passed by time after time by prospective adoptive parents, primarily because I was too old.  I hold no ill feelings about it now.  If there is one thing I learned while I was a ward of the state, it is that no matter how bad off one may be, there is always someone worse off than you are.

After graduating high school and being set on my own by the state, I entered college at the local university.  I became a voracious reader and excelled in athletics but did poorly in my required studies.  After two semesters of academic probation I was asked to leave.  I walked down the street to the Army Recruiter’s office and enlisted.  There wasn’t much to the army, since there was no war on at the time.  While I was there, I did learn to shoot, and fight with a saber, and to keep in good physical condition, but otherwise I left the service just as I had gone in.

After finding a new apartment in my old hometown, I happened to run into a fellow whom I knew from college.  He was running a small grocery store, and doing quite well, since no large grocery chain was interested in such a small market area.  He offered me a job, I took it, and we became pretty close friends.

My friend, the grocery store owner, was engaged to a nice girl, and they decided in time to get married.  I was chosen to be the best man.  The wedding was nice, and the reception was even better.  I have never been much of a drinking man, but that night I made a name for myself in that capacity.  I don’t know why I drank so much.  Maybe I was feeling sorry for myself and my lot in life, I don’t know.  I do know that in short order, I had worked myself into a staggering, slobbering, half-conscious stupor.  How, when, and where I became unconscious, I cannot say, but at some point, I did.  And this is where my story truly begins.

I awoke with a chill in my bones.  I was lying down in a small streambed with icy water running over my feet.  I tried to rise but couldn’t.  My body was stiff and weak, and its only response was to shiver uncontrollably.  Around me was a thick forest, and I could see dark shapes moving around in the trees. I sensed then, on some deeper level that I was in a place I had never been before.  Then I heard a deep growling as I passed once again into unconsciousness.

When next I awoke, I looked around to find myself in a small shack.  I was lying on a cot made of animal furs, and I was bathed in a cold sweat.  The walls of the small shelter were made from cut logs and a roughly fashioned wooden chair was the room’s only furnishing.  When the door of the shack opened, I truly believed for the first time in my life that there were lifeforms other than those I was familiar with on Earth.

The creature that stepped inside the door, and closed it after him, was most ugly.  That he was intelligent was demonstrated not only by the fact that he had opened and then closed the door, but also by the fact that he wore clothing— ugly clothing yes, but clothing, nonetheless.  He was about five feet tall and stood in a kind of perpetual crouch.  His body was covered with coarse brown hair, two to three inches long, from his head to his feet, which reminded me of the feet of a dog or a wolf, although larger.  He was somewhat wolf-like in every aspect, such as his protruding snout, but he also seemed somewhat baboon-like in his expressive eyes.  I am comparing him to earthly animals, but this is really inadequate, as the similarities were actually quite superficial, and he was totally unearthly in appearance.  I remember most looking at his hands.  He had four fingers not too different from my own, but his abbreviated thumb possessed a great, long, curving claw.

The creature, stepping slowly over to me, reached out a hand and gave me a piece of dried fruit.  I was quite hungry, and the fruit was quite good.  As I began to eat, the creature began to bark and growl at me.  At first, I thought he was angry, but then I realized that he was trying to communicate in his language.   I was too tired to respond and fruit still in hand, passed back into sleep.

The next time I woke, the creature was sitting in the chair looking at me with his head cocked to one side.  I pushed myself up on one elbow and he spoke to me again, this time in a more human sort of language.  It seemed almost like French but having learned a few phrases of that language in the army, I knew it was not.  This language was so much less nasal.  He pointed to his chest and said “Malagor” then he pointed to me.  I said “Alexander”.  He smiled wide exposing a magnificent row of long, sharp teeth.  My language lessons had begun.

It took a long time for me to recover from my illness.  It seemed to me that I was nursed by the creature for at least a month. I slept many times, but each time I awoke I found light streaming in the window.  Not once did I wake to find darkness, or even the pale light of the moon, outside the window.  During this long period of time, my host provided me with food and water, took care of my sanitary needs, and of course, taught me to speak his language.  One of the first things that I learned was that “Malagor” was not the name of my companion but was instead his race or species.  He told me his real name, which seemed to be a growl with a cough thrown in for good measure.  I decided that I would call him “Malagor”, and he didn’t seem to mind.

Nova Dancer – Chapter 5 Excerpt

Flying out of Thim orbit proved to be slightly more treacherous than arriving had, due to several pieces of space junk that were bigger than the Nova Dancer.  Starr managed to reach clear space though, hitting nothing larger than a person’s fist.  Missing the tiny pieces was impossible, since they were as thick as soup.

“I’m glad we’re going to Gateway next,” he told Viv.  “A good hull inspection is probably warranted after this.”

“Have you plotted a transition point yet?”

“No, I’m going to do it right now.”

“I’ll get out of here then,” she said, getting up.

Starr spent more than the usual time calculating the positions of the gravity wells in the system. It wasn’t that it was a more difficult job than usual.  It was just that his mind kept becoming distracted.

Finally, he punched everything into the console, and then got up and started for the bunkroom.  Just before entering, he stopped.  Strange sounds were coming from around the corner—gasps, moans, grunts.  He carefully peered into the room.  The first thing he saw was Viv’s naked back, and then her naked bottom.  She was facing away from him as she bounced up and down on top of the new passenger.

His breath catching in his throat, Starr quickly turned around and retreated to the flight deck. There he sat, his mind replaying what he had seen.  He was bolted back to awareness by the transition alarm.  He hit it and the ship jumped into hyperspace.

“What’s going on?”

“Hmm?” Starr turned to see Viv back at her station, fully clothed.

He glanced at the ship’s chronometer and realized he had thrown the transition switch almost two hours earlier.  Two lost hours.

“Nothing,” he said, climbing out of his seat.  “I’m going back to check on the cargo.”

As he stomped past the common area, Prinda fell into step beside him.  She was probably the only one who would have fit beside him in the narrowness of the hallway.

“You’re upset.”

“I’m not upset.  What would I be upset about?”

“You’re attracted to her and she’s procreating with that other male.”

“She’s not procreating, and lower your damn voice,” hissed Starr.  “She’s just having a little fun, and she’s entitled to.  She’s not mine, and she’s too young for me anyway. Besides, she has terrible taste in men, apparently.”

“All right.  It’s just that you seemed upset.”

“I’m not upset.”

The captain opened the hatch to cargo bay eight and looked inside.  It was filled with stacking cargo containers, presumably full of recyclables.  Nothing looked amiss.

“Was there something else you needed?” he asked the Castorian.

“No, not at all,” she said, turning and heading back the way they had come.

Starr stepped into the cargo bay, closing the door behind him.  He grabbed a packing blanket and spread it across one of the cargo containers. Then he lay down and tried to sleep.

“What are you in here for, Starr?” asked Huppy.

Starr opened his eyes to realize that he had actually been asleep for a while.

“Just taking a nap.”

“You need to get up. It’s time for dinner.”

“I’m not really hungry.”

“Okay.  That’s good.  With two passengers, there’s no more room at the table.”

Though he wasn’t hungry and really didn’t want to sit with the others anyway, he followed Huppy back to the common room.  There actually was room at the table, though Starr still didn’t join Viv and Lexxon, who were sitting way to close, facing Prinda, and Huppy.  Instead he pressed the button for coffee and leaned back against the counter and listened to the conversation.

“I still have a hard time telling you apart,” said Prinda.  “Starr said the Karendians are the pretty ones.  You’re Zarian.  How do Zarians compare to other humans?”

“We’re the normal ones,” said Viv.

“I’m a Zarian too, aren’t I, Viv?” Huppy asked.

“Sure you are.”

“What about you, Mr. Lexxon?” asked Starr.  “I don’t place your accent.  You’re not Rialtan, are you?”

Lexxon’s mouth formed into a thin, mirthless smile.

“My people are from a little planet called Leonis-4.  It was a backwards little world, having just developed steam technology before it was invaded by the Nakh.  A good portion of the population was exterminated, and the rest were scattered about.  I grew up on a racially diverse planet claimed by both the Ozolians and the Providers.”

“The Providers!” gasped Viv. “You weren’t slaves?”

“No.  We weren’t slaves.”

Starr turned and picked up his now full cup of coffee, as he mused over Lexxon’s story.

The Providers.  They had been a major force in the galaxy for thousands of years, based on the trade of slaves—mostly human slaves.  There were countless minor human races who were the results of genetic manipulation by the Providers—like the Forty-fours, one of which had worked in the brothel on Armiger.  Then the Providers had picked the wrong side in a long series of interstellar wars. They weren’t gone though.  They were still around, one of a few races that humans generally avoided.